This was Me….
Like most of you I can’t believe we’re already in 2015, where has the time gone and more worryingly how quickly is this decade going?!
You’ve probably settled back your desk, feeling a little depressed that the Christmas celebrations are well and truly over but on the plus side you’re feeling motivated to go the gym and of course are already online looking for your next holiday. I say ‘probably’ because I don’t know for sure… it’s been such a long time since I left that world behind… 4 years, 4 months and 10 days to be precise but hey who’s counting!
You see that was me, before I finally took the plunge to leave my comfortable, well paid, secure job of 7 years at Disney Head Office behind and follow my dream to set up my own Personal Styling Agency; Style ME. The thing is, I never hated my job as I felt proud to work for such a great company. I had a great boss and team, work was never too stressful BUT it felt exactly like that; work. Traveling during the rush hour, always feeling guilty for being late, panicking about my next presentation, strategically trying to maximize my annual leave around bank holidays, dying of boredom whilst looking at yet another spreadsheet or worse still making a cup of tea everyday at 4pm and looking out of the window and thinking “is this it”?
So what made me leave? Was it the seven-year itch? Was it the dread of yet another company restructure? No, it was simply hearing the saying “Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day” that set the ball in motion and admitting to myself and the then VP of Finance (at a drunken awards ceremony) that I really wasn’t happy! That was in June 2010 and what followed was a whirlwind of events. The following morning I had a coffee with the same VP and told him to forget all about my dramatic rant about my unfulfilled life (blaming the cheap red wine) but he wasn’t having any of it and insisted we do something about it. The next thing I knew he was encouraging me to quit my job and make a full time career as a stylist! Let me quickly explain, even though I had styled a few people (loving every minute of it I might add) it was by no means something I ever thought was possible for me to do full time, if anything it was just a hobby that gave me extra shoe money! But my VP saw things differently and said that I should focus on it full-time as he knew how much I loved it. I didn’t quite know how to take it, was this a clever HR ploy to get rid of under achieving employees or was this man an angel sent from the gods wishing me to live my life to the fullest?!
Before I knew it I was asking for voluntary redundancy, convincing my Dad that leaving your job in the heart of a global recession really is a good idea and waking up in hot sweats panicked as to how I would pay my mortgage let alone run my brand new Mercedes SLK! BUT despite all the anxiety something had shifted, not just in my circumstances but something inside me…I had a spring in my step, I had butterflies (the good kind) in my stomach and anyone I met said I’d got my spark back.
So on 16th August 2010, I left the Disney building with a well negotiated redundancy package, the biggest smile on my face and a framed picture in my arms and I can honestly say with hand on heart that I’ve never ever looked back….
So for any of you sitting at your desks bored and frustrated but feeling inspired by my story of how I left the rat race, I encourage you to make this the year you pursue your dream career no matter what it is and just remember the saying “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
What happened next…
So there I was leaving my old world behind, full of enthusiasm for my new lease of life and glamorous new title: ‘Personal Stylist’. I remember skipping through life those first few months; waking up naturally (without that dreaded alarm clock!), going to the gym, meeting friends for coffees, shopping (of course!) all whilst eagerly anticipating the launch of the new website I had designed with my (very expensive) web design agency. Now call me naïve BUT I honestly thought (despite all my business training at Disney) that to get new clients all I needed was a great website, some fancy business cards and to put the word out to my supportive friends and family and just wait for the phone to ring. But let me tell you what I’ve learnt…even a website designed by Leonardo Di Vinci wouldn’t have made the slight bit of difference because the phone never rang! Instead I was acting like a needy chick calling anyone I could of think of offering them my personal styling services (sometimes for free!) and I still couldn’t get 1 client! Maybe they could sense my desperation or worse maybe they doubted my skills (as I was also beginning to do) and to make matters worse my once healthy redundancy package was now showing early signs of malnutrition!
This is when the bubble burst and I realized I could have all the flair and natural talent of an amazing personal stylist but without the clients the only thing I was ever going to be was… in the red. What followed was a real determination to make it as the thought of returning to the rat race was never going to be an option for me. Was it my pride or was it the fear of those dreaded words “I told you so” that motivated me? Who knows, all I know is that it was a sink or swim situation and boy was I in the deep end! I tried everything. I was networking (I hate small talk) and cold calling companies (why didn’t anyone tell me about the 20 second elevator pitch?) talk about coming out of my comfort zone.. but here’s a thing about your comfort zone, without any money it’s not actually very comfortable!
The strange thing is, before I knew it I secretly started to enjoy it as the leads started to come in the clients eventually followed. It was by no means easy; my confidence was on the floor a lot of the time but once I (finally) started styling clients, transforming the way they looked and felt, I 100% knew this was my calling. The only thing I regret now is the time and money I wasted in those first crucial few months due to a lack of direction. I wish back then I had had someone to mentor and guide me which is why a big of my day now is spent mentoring our Style ME Members that come out of our Training Academy. Not just on how to style their clients but also help them identify strategic ways to build their client base as I know from experience that finding the confidence for that is going to be the key to their success.
A day in the life of a Personal Stylist
It’s 4pm on a Thursday afternoon and I’m sitting here in Soho House, London writing this blog about my typical working day. I’m reflecting back to how my working day used to be, sitting at my desk at Disney analysing yet another a spreadsheet but roll on 4 years I can’t believe how much my life has changed for the better. But some thing’s don’t change, for example I still have a cup of tea at 4pm and I’ve just stopped to look out of the window and I have to say I’m feeling rather smug about my surroundings; trust me it’s a far cry from the view out of the staff kitchen window at Disney that overlooked Hammersmith roundabout! I guess the only shame is that the Twix and cup of builder’s tea has now been replaced with a healthier green option!
The biggest change is that now my work revolves around my personal timetable; I fit clients and meetings around my favourite gym classes and my social calendar and I always avoid traveling during the rush hour…simply because I can… You see when you’ve worked years in the rat race like I had; fighting against time, guiltily trying to squeeze in a workout at lunchtime and never getting a seat on the tube on the way to and from work, it’s the freedom to plan your time that you appreciate the most.
The best part though, is that no two days are ever the same; at least not for me. If Mystic Meg had told me a few years ago I would become a full time Personal Stylist I would have laughed but could see the possibility. However if she’d told me I would also be running a Training Academy, training delegates on how to become a Personal Stylist as well as training Retailers on how to increase their Average Transaction Values through styling their customers, I would have literally fallen off my chair, as anyone who knew me in my past career knew I had a deep rooted fear in public speaking… but presenting is what I now do the most! The funniest thing is that I no longer fear it; in fact I actually look forward to it. My presentations at Disney were accompanied with sheer panic, God forbid anybody who stopped me in between to ask questions because my presentations were rehearsed to the very last sentence! But now my presentations flow with ease because I’m actually passionate about what I’m saying and I love seeing the penny drop with new delegates. What I also really love is the fact I am inspiring and mentoring women (and men) to pursue their dream career.
As much as I love training, nothing gives me greater satisfaction than when I have a Personal Styling client. Just knowing that I can potentially meet a client on a Monday and within a couple of days after doing their ‘Colours’ and ‘Wardrobe’ and taking them Personal Shopping I can completely transform not only the way they look but how they feel about themselves is fantastic. The biggest compliment is not the gushing words they email or text me, but the referrals they give me to style their friends, family and colleagues etc… that’s the thing with Personal Styling, you get to meet so many different people and knowing they 100% trust your opinion on how they should dress… is a pretty big responsibility!
The thing I’ve noticed the most is that when things are meant to be, everything just grows naturally, and my best friend Mary Ann becoming my business partner has been the most amazing blessing. Just this week we’ve booked 4 people onto our much anticipated 1 week Intensive Training course and it’s great that I can share my enthusiasm with her, the only down fall is that we’re always talking about work! But that’s the thing about work, when you do a job you love it really isn’t work….